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Count It All Joy

There is no easy road to satisfaction. One reason for
this is that no one has ever lived a life free from
difficulties. Everyone faces trials, and all of us know
suffering in one way or another. I’ve noticed that
wherever I am, in every culture and every
geographical region, when I mention the subject of
suffering, there is an instant rapport, a bond of mutual
understanding.

Suffering: A Door to Finding Satisfaction

We can take comfort in the knowledge that Scripture
teaches that God’s perfect plan for each of us
includes suffering, trials, and pain. The wonderful
truth is that our most frustrating trials can be a source
of great joy. James wrote:

My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into
divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of
your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her
perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire,
wanting nothing
(James 1:2-4). Trials will make us
either bitter or better.

I know what it is like to be broken — literally. In
my book The Tender Touch, I told of the terrible
automobile accident my husband and I experienced
in Brussels in 1979. We were in Europe for our
twenty-seventh wedding anniversary and planned to
celebrate the joyous occasion with members of Jack’s
family.

That particular afternoon, we had traveled to Brussels
to shop for anniversary gifts. We leisurely
walked and talked, truly enjoying our visit to this
fascinating city. We even stopped for afternoon tea
and shared a sandwich. (A cousin was preparing a
feast for our anniversary dinner that night and we
didn’t want to ruin our appetites!)

The afternoon ended all too quickly, and we soon
found ourselves driving back to the home of the
cousin with whom we were staying. Suddenly, seemingly
out of nowhere, a bus traveling 50 miles an hour
struck our vehicle with such impact that my side of the
car was ripped away and the rest of the automobile
completely demolished. I remember saying,
“Jack, there’s a bus!” He attempted to swerve, but it
was too late. My last thoughts as I fell out onto the
busy street was, This is what it’s like to die.

Everything went black. I felt no pain until my
husband’s warm tears falling on my face revived me.
His voice was choked with emotion as he wept and
prayed over me. “Lord, must it end this way? Don’t
let it happen. Please work a miracle!”

I felt that I was slipping away from him, and I
wanted him to know how much I loved him. “Honey,
I think I am dying,” I whispered. “I don’t want to
leave you.”

“Oh no,” Jack cried. “Oh, God, please help us,
Somehow spare her life.”

I wish that in some way I could convey the peace
that I experienced from God during this time. Even
Christians sometimes wonder about and perhaps are
somewhat afraid of the unknown — that valley of the
shadow of death through which we must one day
pass. I would love to stand on a mountaintop and call
to every believer everywhere, “Don’t be afraid!” At
the moment of departure, He is there to give us peace
and sustain our hearts. What a comfort to know that
we are the Lord’s most prized possessions and that
He will never allow us to go through the transition
from this world to the next in fear. I rejoice over this
experience today because I can say with David, I will
fear no evil; for thou art with me
(Psalm 23:4).

Suspended in God’s sweet peace, I was almost in
the presence of the Lord. Then suddenly, I was pulled
back from going over. A hand grasped my wrist and a
man stood beside me. He tenderly placed a blanket
over my body and in perfect English said, “Don’t
move her. She will be all right.” Immediately, my
mind began to clear and I knew that I would live.

As quickly as he had appeared, he was gone. The
Lord had sent a man or an angel (only He knows) to
provide perfect comfort and to minister to us in a
special way Hebrews 1:14 says: Are they [angels]
not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for
them who shall be heirs of salvation?

An ambulance rushed us to the hospital. I looked at
Jack and was reassured to know that he was all right. I
knew that somehow God was doing something special
in our lives — something that would ultimately
glorify Him if we would not faint (see II Corinthians
4:16).

I had sustained a severe head injury. X rays revealed
that I had a broken collarbone and two broken
ribs. I had also sustained numerous cuts and bruises,
and fragments of glass were embedded in parts of my
body. In fact, the doctor spent four hours removing
glass from my legs, head, and ears. God had divinely
and miraculously spared my face and eyes, for which
I shall forever be grateful.

Because of my head injury, I was unable to receive
any pain medication for 18 hours. In addition, I was
told that if the bleeding from my head wound did not
stop during the night, doctors would be forced to
shave my head in order to suture the extreme abrasion.
Jack remained by my side every minute of that
entire night, praying with me, comforting me, and
talking with me. We asked God for a miracle, and He
gave us one. By morning, the bleeding had stopped.

Neither of us slept during that long, unforgettable
night. As we talked about why it happened, I felt a
kinship with Job. God had allowed Satan to test us
but not destroy us or our ministry together. He
allowed the test to go so far, and no further. I knew
that my Father was in control and that my Saviour was
not leaving me alone. Indeed, I knew that He was
feeling my infirmity with even greater intensity than I.

Jack spent the next 48 hours trying to get the
doctors to release me for our return to America.

British Airways agreed to fly us and graciously
provided wheelchair and ambulance service all the
way to Detroit. Still, the hours in flight were painfully
long, Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me,
and strengthened me
(II Timothy 4:17).

During the next three months, I received extensive
medical treatment and stringent therapy. Adhesions
formed as the damaged muscles and tendons in my
crushed shoulder healed. Doctors said that without
corrective surgery I would never use my arm again.
Instead, I underwent months of excruciating
rehabilitative exercises to correct the situation. Still, I
would not want to look back upon this experience
with anything but rejoicing and praise — rejoicing in
the Lord’s protection and love in bringing me through
this trial and praise that He counted me worthy to be
put to the test.

Resistance to Suffering is Counterproductive

It would have been easy, I suppose, to resist in my
heart and be bitter against the Lord for allowing such
a thing to happen. Yet it never occurred to me to
question what God was doing. Years earlier Jack and
I had committed ourselves to pursuing the Lord’s will
whatever the cost — and when we made that commitment,
we knew it could involve suffering. It has,
but the rewards have been rich. God has filled our
lives with blessings that exceed anything we could
ask or think.

Unfortunately, instead of counting problems and
trials as joy and allowing them to work patience and
maturity, many people tend to follow their natural
inclination, and the difficulties produce bitterness
and resentmeat. That, in turn,only amplifies
dissatisfaction, until finally they are caught in a
never-ending cycle of devastatingly negative feelings.

The only effect resistance has on our trials is to
make them more dificult to bear. When we rebel
against God and turn from Him, we shut out the One
who can enable us to carry whatever burden He gives
us. How tragic it is to see someone who has gone
through grief and pain who then turns sorrow into
bitterness against God! That is not what God wants.
He wants to make the burden light and the yoke easy
to bear (see Matthew 11:30).

I know that it is normal to want to resist problems,
and, of course, it is right and even necessary to resist
some things. For example, we should not give in to
immoral acts, so we must resist temptation. Scripture
tells us to resist Satan (see James 4:7; I Peter 5:9).
Nevertheless, when we are confronted with trials that
are beyond our control, we need to see ourselves as
Paul did — like clay in the hands of the Potter,
submissive to His will for our lives. We must realize
that through these trials He is molding us. shaping us.
and perfecting us — until we become vessels that He
can use.

Have you ever watched a potter work on a pottery
wheel? He squeezes and pinches and applies
pressure, and from what was an ugly lump of clay comes
forth a beautiful, useful piece of pottery. The potter
knows just where to poke and just where to rub — it is
a fascinating process to watch. Occasionally, the
potter will decide a radical change is in order, and he
will smash a nearly molded pot and begin again from
the beginning.

Jeremiah described the process:

I went down to the potter’s house, and, behold, he
wrought a work on the wheels. And the vessel that he
made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so
he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to
the potter to make it
(Jeremiah 18:3-4).

Perhaps you feel like the Potter has smashed you
that way. I have good news for you. God is one Potter
who always rebuilds the vessels He allows to be
broken so that they are better than before. It may not
always be in the way we desire or think is best, but in
the process, it is nonproductive for us to resist and
become bitter. Instead we should try to see what is
happening from God’s perspective, even though we
may not understand what He is doing, and yield to
His will for us. Paul wrote, Shall the thing formed say
to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?
Hath not the potter power over the clay?
(Romans
9:20, 21).

Acceptance: A New Name for Satisfaction

How much better it is to accept our trials as from
the Lord who permits them! Job accepted his trials, as
hard as they were for him. This incredible man lost all
his earthly possessions and all his children in a series
of disasters that happened in just one day. Soon after
that, he lost his health as well. He was reduced to a
mass of sores, sitting in a pile of ashes, scraping
himself with a piece of broken pottery (how appropriate!).
He did not understand what God was doing.
but his response was, The Lord gave, and the Lord
hath taken away; blessed be the name of the
Lord… Shall we receive good at the hand of God,
and shall we not receive evil? (Job 1:21; 2:10).

Yes, Job bore all the pain — in his case both
physical pain and mental anguish — and did not sin
with his lips. He never accused God or spoke bitterly
against Him. Quite the contrary, Job accepted the
negative things as graciously as he had accepted the
good things. Though the task was not easy, out of
Job’s afflictions came some wonderful fruit. The first
is the book of Job — a good source of comfort in times
of despair and doubt. In addition, Job grew wiser and
closer to the Lord through his ordeal. Even his
so-called comforters learned from his sufferings.

What became of Job. The answer is recorded for
us in verses 12 and 13 and chapter 42: So the Lord
blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning.
After this lived Job an hundred and forty years…

The “secret” of Job’s success and blessing is
rooted in the fact that he endured his suffering. He
never turned from God. Instead, he repented! Why
would a man who was perfect and upright, and one
that feared God, and eschewed evil
(1:1) do such a
thing? Because Job, through his suffering, was
privileged to get a glimpse of God in His holiness. As a
result, he saw himself as completely unworthy so that
he said, I abhor myself(2:6). And in doing that, he
discovered yet a third way of responding to trials.

Rejoicing: A Perspective You May Have Overlooked

This third type of response is what James referred
to in the opening passage of this chapter — rejoicing,
or glorying, in our trials. Admittedly, rejoicing in the
midst of tribulation is not an easy thing to do. A
woman wrote to us a short time ago:

   I am having a very hard time adjusting my
life. My husband died not too long ago at age
53, and I just can’t seem to get my life together.
I never worked in all the years we were
married. I was a family person and never made
many friends outside our home, I am lonely and
frightened. Please pray for me.

My heart goes out to this dear woman and many
others like her. In fact, one might well ask how she
could possibly rejoice in the midst of such a difficult
trial. She cannot rejoice that her husband has died.
How then can she find joy in the midst of her deep
loneliness, fear, and doubts?

The answer is found in the perspective we choose
to take. No one rejoices in the death of a loved one.
Job didn’t, and even Jesus wept at the grave of His
friend Lazarus. Scripture acknowledges that sorrow
and grief are appropriate and normal responses to
death.

Bitterness comes when we focus on our sorrows or
trials themselves rather than on the Lord and what He
is attempting to accomplish through them. From this
perspective, we can easily become discouraged.
Unfortunately, this is exactly the place in which many
dissatisfied people find themselves. However, if we
look beyond the trials and understand that God is
working in the midst of them, if we focus our hearts
on Him, a miracle begins to occur. He brings peace in
the midst of pain, and joy in the midst of sorrow.
Truly, His grace is sufficient.

My Grandmother Shelton taught me firsthand the
meaning of glorying in tribulation. She knew trials all
her life. She was the mother of eight children and, as
a diabetic, had to take insulin shots every day of her
life. She was a tall, vibrant, robust lady who would
pick me up (literally) and shake me like a rag doll and
say, “I love you, Rexella.” What a shock when she
lost first one leg, then the other, to amputation
because of complications from her disease. She would
never walk again; yet, I never heard her mention her
trials or complain. Her focus went far beyond them.
And as she looked to the Lord and leaned on Him, she
was actually able to glory in her infirmities! She was
always rejoicing. I remember her often taking out a
little harmonica and playing it. Just being around her
brought me great joy, and I seldom thought of her as
being in pain, although I’m certain she suffered
greatly.

There is something to be said for pain. Trials are
not pleasant, but they are valuable. A flower must be
crushed before it yields perfume. A grain of wheat
must fall to the ground and die before it can bear fruit
(see John 12:24). And we must suffer for the Lord if
we are to be glorified witb Him (see Romans 8:17).

If you are going through a trial, don’t resist it. And
don’t just accept it or endure it. Learn to glory in it!
God is doing something through your trials. You may
not understand it fully, and He does not always give
us explanations. But He does give us promises — and
He always keeps them.

   Trials are medicines which our gracious
and wise physician prescribes, because we
need them; and he proportions the frequency
and weight of them to what the case requires.
Let us trust his skill and thank him for his
prescription.

— Isaac Newton

I came across something that helped me to further
understand these precious truths. In Job 41:25 are to
be found these few obscure words: By reason of
breakings they purify themselves.
What can that
possibly mean?

Elsewhere the Bible teaches that the sacrifices God
accepts are broken and contrite hearts (see Psalm
51:17). This is illustrated throughout the Bible as one
observes God using for His glory those people and
things which are most perfectly broken. Here are
some examples:

  • Jacob at Peniel, where his natural strength
    was broken.
  • Moses and the rock at Horeb; when he
    struck it, out gushed cool water for the thirsty
    people.
  • Gideon and his band of 300 elect soldiers.
    When they broke their pitchers — a type of
    breaking of themselves — their hidden lights
    shone forth to the consternation of their
    adversaries.
  • The poor widow who broke the seal on the
    little pot of oil, and it poured forth, whereby
    God multiplied it to pay her debts and her
    sons didn’t have to be taken as bondmen.
  • Queen Esther risking her life, breaking
    through the rigid etiquette of a heathen court,
    thus obtaining favor to rescue her people from
    death.
  • Jesus taking the five loaves of bread,
    breaking them, and in the act of breaking,
    there was sufficient to feed 5,000.
  • Mary breaking her alabaster box, rendering
    it uselees, but this allowed the perfume to
    fill the house.
  • Jesus allowing His body to be broken by
    thorns, nails, and the spear, so that His life
    was poured out for us to live.

God must have broken things — throughout all
plant life, all history, all the great biographical
accounts, and in all spiritual life, this fact is
preeminent.

Why should we then shrink from those things,
which may break us at some point? If we will but
allow Him, the brokenness we experience can be
used for our purer good and for God’s glory. Such
brokenness may come in the form of being broken in
wealth, half-will, ambitions, ideals, reputation.
affections, and even brokenness in health. Remember
the final tally of life is not seen in the here and now.
Can you, like James wrote, “Count it all joy?”


Footprints

   One night a man had a dream. He dreamed
he was walking along the beach with the
LORD. Across the sky flashed scenes from
his life. For each scene, he noticed two sets of
footprints in the sand; one belonging to him
and the other to the LORD.
   When the last scene of his life flashed
before him, he looked back at the footprints in
the sand. He noticed that many times along
the path of his life there was only one set of
footprints. He also noticed that it happened at
the very lowest and saddest times in his life.

This really bothered him, and he questioned
the LORD about it. “LORD, You said
that once I decided to follow You, You’d walk
with me all the way. But I have noticed that
during the most troublesome times in my life,
there is only one set of footprints. I don’t
understand why when I needed You most You
would leave me.”

The LORD replied, “My precious, precious
child, I love you and I would never
leave you. During your times of trial and
suffering, when you see only one set of footprints,
it was then that I carried you.”

Author unknown

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